Shareable.net has embarked upon an ambitious investigative and analytical journalism project with San Francisco Public Press, a nonprofit news agency, and Spot.us, which "crowdfunds" journalism projects. We're looking at the unique Treasure Island redevelopment in San Francisco as a case study in how sustainable, shareable ideals get shaped by real-world money and politics.
Shareable.net has kicked in $1,000 to pay the journalists, and we hope you'll consider making a donation to help support their work. All donations go directly to the writers.
What is crowdfunding, and why is it crucial to the future of journalism? As the ad-based business model for corporate journalism has declined, communities and individuals are increasingly taking on the burdens of investigative and in-depth reporting, quite often publishing in small or nonprofit venues like Public Press. Since these projects do not enjoy the support of large institutions, community donations are crucial to getting this investigative work done.
Another evolutionary change has made crowdfunding necessary: As news and views have moved from print to online, individuals articles have become free-floating products in their own right, removed from the context that newsprint once provided, each needing to pull its weight online. Stories need to be pitched to the community and supported by the community that will benefit most from the story. As Paolo Bacigalupi describes the process in a Q&A we published earlier this month:
When I was working at High Country News, my job as the online editor was to find ways to increase the amount of traffic moving through the site. The number of page views equaled the amount of ad revenue… Each discreet click is the moment when you’re generating any revenue at all. And it turns out that the most fluffy blog post or bit of opinion generates exactly as much revenue as one of our in-depth pieces of reporting…
Theoretically, the journalist’s responsibility is to ferret out the most important information she can and display it in a way that will make sense to a reader, so the reader will understand the story and understand why it’s relevant to his life. In newspapers, you weren’t discreetly measuring each news nugget; it was a package of material that filled the news hole around the advertising that you’re selling, and so the entertainment section and the comics were part of that package, but that drove overall circulation, and there was no way to get in there and measure and say, “You know what? Only comics generate revenue, so we’re not even going to invest in anything else.” Today, we’re moving into this online space where each news nugget needs to pull its own weight.
The solution: independent, nonprofit, community-supported journalism.
But why should the international readership of Shareable.net care about a development project in San Francisco? The Treasure Island project aims to be the most sustainable eco-city in the world–the master plan could have been torn straight from the pages of this website.
At the same time, however, the project has been heavily shaped by the big money and hardball politics that make the Bay Area one of the wealthiest regions in the world. This series of investigative reports will serve as a case study in how shareable visions and corporate interests interact to shape the final product–containing lessons from which we hope people in other places will benefit.
We have just six days to go until deadline, and so far we've raised $2,000 of the $5,000 needed to pay the journalists involved in this massive and important investigation. So please do consider donating five or ten or twenty or a hundred bucks through Spot.Us–and hopefully Shareable's readers will be able to at least match Shareable's $1,000 contribution! What else can you do to support this investigation? Tweet it, retweet it, share it on your Facebook page, email it to friends who might be interested.
If you give $10 or more to this pitch, we will send you the pilot print edition of the San Francisco Public Press on Tuesday, June 22! You’ll receive a 28-page, ad-free, public-media broadsheet newspaper featuring important, public-interest local news reporting focused on San Francisco, with supplemental Bay Area, state, national and international coverage.